August 2, 2016Michael Sutherland-Shaw
Like hundreds of puzzle pieces scattered across a dining room table, a country is a collection of unique institutions, cities, towns, states and provinces. Each with its own identity, size and history. Forming a puzzle takes time and the ability to see the bigger picture. A country is no different.
When building a nation, no matter the level or type of government, a shared commitment to country growth is imperative. Improving governance, particularly in the public sector, is the most effective enabler of country growth. The result of improved governance includes reduced corruption, improved government efficiency, citizen services and infrastructure development.
FreeBalance is in the business of good governance.
“All businesses have an opportunity and an obligation to make a difference in the world,” says Manuel Pietra, President and CEO of FreeBalance. “Our actions matter and our success should be measured by the impact that we have in the countries and communities where we do business.”
Social responsibility and global citizenship are core values of the company because of the impact its software and services have on the countries where it operates. FreeBalance customers include national, state or provincial, and local governments trying to improve country prosperity, governance and the stewardship of public funds through digital transformation.
There is a strong association between country growth and good governance. Broad and inclusive economic development can overcome the instability and poverty that plagues the modern world. “Improving governance, particularly in the public sector, is the most effective enabler of country growth,” says Pietra. “We’ve seen that the most valuable cross-cutting governance initiative in any country is public financial management reform.”
FreeBalance supports public financial management (PFM) reform by providing its unified Government Resource Planning (GRP) platform to public sector organizations around the world. The web-native platform supports financial, human resources and performance management, offering scalability over time to reflect the evolving needs of the modern public sector.
Public Sector Innovation
With the emergence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the public sector is being challenged to find new and innovative ways to embrace digital transformation to improve service delivery. FreeBalance works closely with its customers to ensure its platform supports the Fourth Industrial Revolution by embracing the Internet of Things, cloud computing, big data and other Government 2.0 technologies.
“The implication of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on public policy and public financial management is of critical importance to the public sector around the world,” says Pietra. “Economic growth is supported through digital transformation in the public sector and FreeBalance customers are at the forefront of this technological revolution.”
The FreeBalance platform embraces open source technologies to provide flexibility and integration among systems. This flexibility and integration is nowhere more evident than with the FreeBalance Cooperative Development Laboratory (FCDL). Building off the robust FreeBalance platform, the lab provides public sector organizations with the tools and support needed to accelerate highly-customized development without incurring delays and high costs.
Transparency and citizen engagement is also achieved with support for open data and open government initiatives leading to improved access to data to make better decisions. This represents an exciting opportunity for FreeBalance and its customers.
Part of the beauty of open data is that it is impossible to predict precisely how it will be used to create value. The nature of innovation is that developments often appear in unlikely places.
“Dramatic improvements in policy and decision-making are enabled through open government,” says Doug Hadden, FreeBalance Executive Vice President, Strategy and Innovation. “The demand for transparency and participation is a change challenge for governments, as is providing open and holistic technology backbones.”
Putting Customers First
While many organizations claim to be customer-centric, FreeBalance goes a step further and involves its customers in the company’s functioning and future development. In 2007, the company formed the FreeBalance International Steering Committee (FISC). FISC provides an interactive forum for the exchange of knowledge, ideas, and experiences among FreeBalance customers.
Insights from FISC meetings and discussions provide leadership and vision for FreeBalance solutions for the public sector. These activities, combined with other aspects of the company’s ISO 9001:2008 certified “customer-centric” processes, ensures FreeBalance products meet changing international needs in a financially sustainable fashion.
“FISC provides us with visibility into current and future customer needs,” says Pietra. “Our customers have a unique opportunity to work collaboratively with our team and with their peers to provide an in-depth look into public financial management trends.” Customers at FISC participate directly in the FreeBalance product development process by voting for roadmap changes over the course of a two-year window.
FreeBalance also engages directly with Minsters of Finance through its bi-annual Ministers’ Roundtable. This event brings together ministers from customer countries to explore how governments can better plan and execute to achieve sustainable economic growth through digital transformation. The next Ministers’ Roundtable event will take place in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 2018.
From G7 to Developing Nations
From its head offices in Ottawa, Canada, FreeBalance has been supporting the public sector for more than 30 years. The company is currently active in 25 countries worldwide from post-conflict through emerging nations to the G7.
FreeBalance is growing rapidly in the APAC region with public sector customers in the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Afghanistan and Timor-Leste. The company also has offices in Hong Kong, Manila, Colombo, Kabul, Bangalore, Kolkata, Ulaanbaatar, and Dili.
One of FreeBalance’s most recent project is in the Philippines. The Government of the Philippines is leveraging FreeBalance technology as the platform for its new Budget and Treasury Management System (BTMS). The BTMS is an integrated budget and treasury management information system. The deployment of the BTMS will help improve governance by automating and modernizing budget execution and accountability.
The Government of Sri Lanka is implementing FreeBalance technology as the Integrated Treasury Management Information System (ITMIS) for the Ministry of Finance and Planning. The ITMIS is being rolled out government-wide to all spending and is part of a major reform initiative towards improving fiscal management in Sri Lanka.
The reality is all regions of the world are undergoing some degree of modernization and reform. FreeBalance has been able to work with public sector organizations in countries of all sizes and socio-economic conditions.
Timor-Leste, for example, has made a decisive commitment to vastly improve its standards of governance by embracing transparency. This commitment is rooted in a belief, backed by research, that improvements in governance produce tangible benefits for a country’s citizens. Timor-Leste, whose economy is heavily dependent on offshore oil and gas reserves, has vowed to avoid the “resource curse” where developing countries with resources usually have poorer governance and higher corruption than countries without such resources.
For Timor-Leste, transparency is not optional.
FreeBalance has helped Timor-Leste to develop a roadmap for public financial management reform supported by a foundation of technology, software, and services. Major elements include the Transparency Portal, the e-Procurement Portal and the Ministers’ Dashboard.
Today, Timor-Leste is well on its way to meeting its governance goals. Its financial transparency portal, launched in March 2011, dynamically displays all budget information in an easy to read and publicly available format. Procurement opportunities are now publicly listed, and ministers have better tools to support decision making. Citizens, aid donors, the press and other stakeholders can now fully access how the government is spending the budget. The status of government projects can be confirmed, and various other transactions can be monitored.
FreeBalance measures its milestones by the success of its customers. From increased transparency in Timor-Leste to budget management in the Philippines, FreeBalance prides itself on affecting change, supporting growth, prosperity, and dramatically improving service delivery to citizens.
With its robust GRP technology, FreeBalance has its sights set on helping public sector organizations in the APAC region as well as the rest of the world improve country growth through improved budget planning, execution, control and transparency.
“We have a unique opportunity to support growth around the world. As leaders in technology and innovation, we believe the APAC region is in a position to accelerate public sector modernization and reform by embracing open technologies and digital transformation,” says Pietra.